NEW ORLEANS — Pelicans first-year coach Alvin Gentry is starting to see evidence that his team can overcome its dismal start to the season.
New Orleans’ composure in the final minutes of a tight game with the Phoenix Suns, highlighted by Anthony Davis’ clutch plays on both ends, was at least an encouraging sign.
Davis capped a 32-point, 19-rebound performance with a tiebreaking 3-pointer in the final minute, and the Pelicans beat the Suns 122-116 on Sunday night.
“He invites those situations,” Gentry said of Davis. “I like the fact that he wanted the ball in crunch time. As I’ve said all along, I think we’re going to be a good team. We’ve made some progress. Obviously we’ve got a long, long way to go, but I do like the intensity that we’re playing with.”
Davis, whose rebound total set a season high, also blocked four shots and had two steals. His last block came with 22 seconds left, when he tapped Mirza Teletovic’s 3-point attempt from the right corner offline. The ball fell to Pelicans guard Ish Smith, and New Orleans held on from there.
Ryan Anderson, who scored 30 in each of his previous two games, had 29 points for New Orleans (3-11), which has won consecutive games for the first time this season. Eric Gordon hit five 3s and finished with 20 points, while Smith had 17 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
“It’s a good win for us as we try to continue to get healthy,” said Gentry, who hopes to see starting guard Tyreke Evans make his season debut in the next week. “Anthony is feeling real comfortable with what we’re trying to do with him and I think Ryan has been sensational off the bench.”
Eric Bledsoe scored 29 points for Phoenix, which lost despite hitting 17 3-pointers. Brandon Knight had 19 points, but missed 13 of 18 shots.
“There were a lot of little things we did wrong,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said, citing his team’s 11-of-33 shooting in the paint. “First of all, that’s not enough attempts.”
“We have to shoot better than that in the paint if we want to win,” he added. “We didn’t have enough stops at the end of the game and they made more plays.”
Markieff Morris scored 17 points and P.J. Tucker had 12 for the Suns, while Tyson Chandler grabbed 10 rebounds.
New Orleans led by as much as 11 in the third quarter after a 15-2 run that included a pair of 3s by Gordon. But the Suns tied it at 92 when Bledsoe hit a 3 as he was fouled for a four-point play with 9:57 left.
Davis made several clutch plays right after a questionable call angered him and Gentry with 2:39 to go. Davis had soared for a rebound and fell coming down when he appeared to be grabbed on the arm by Tucker. But Davis was whistled for a loose-ball foul.
Tucker’s resulting free throws cut New Orleans’ lead to 107-106, but Davis responded with a 20-foot jumper on the next possession.
In the final minute, Davis delivered his pivotal 3, but only after passing out of double teams twice in the post before getting the ball back at beyond the arc with the shot clock winding down.
“”They were not going to let him go one-on-one so I thought he did a good job of dribbling out and getting rid of it,” Gentry said. “I’m not real sure if that’s what we drew up, but we’ll take it.”
Suns: Morris was called for a technical foul in the fourth quarter for arguing with an official who had called a moving pick against him. The resulting free throw gave New Orleans a 95-92 lead with 9:26 left. … Phoenix turned the ball over 15 times, leading to 25 Pelicans points. … The Suns were 29 of 33 from the foul line, with Bledsoe hitting 11 of 12. … Phoenix shot 47.2 percent from 3-point range (17 of 36), but only 38.9 percent (35 of 90) overall.
Pelicans: Jrue Holiday fouled out with 1:13 to go on a foul under the basket on Bledsoe, who hit both free throws to tie it at 109. Holiday and Gentry protested as replays appeared to show a clean block. … Smith hit the back of his head no the scorer’s table when he leapt, off-balance, to grab a loose ball and release it before he landed to avoid a back-court violation. The play resulted in one of Davis’ dunks. … The Pelicans were 33 of 40 on free throws. … Smith has made 18 of his last 19 free throws. … Gordon was 5 of 12 from 3-point range.
The Suns visit San Antonio on Monday night.
- EOTS’ college tipoff NBA Draft Big Board, Part III: Doncic, bigs on top
- Len’s double-double, Booker’s 22 in first half lift Suns to win over Lakers
- EOTS’ college tipoff NBA Draft Big Board, Part II: Potential No. 1 picks
- The 5: Most thrilling debut seasons in Valley sports history
- Suns Strokes: Suns give up 90 points in first half, fall to Rockets at home